Beat Street (1984)

beat street poster 1984 review
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 8/10

Tries to be dark, good performances by artists

So-so acting in dramatic scenes, could have been darker, undeveloped characters

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Beat Street

Studio:  Orion Pictures

Genre(s):  Musical/Drama

Release Date(s):  June 8, 1984

MPAA Rating:  PG

beat street final concert


It might seem like the South Bronx can’t be escaped, but a group of teens see their way out.  Kenny Kirkland (Guy Davis) is a DJ and his brother Lee (Robert Taylor) is a breakdancer.  Ramon (Jon Chardiet) is an artist whose graffiti can be seen in subways and subway cars.  When Kenny and Lee meet Tracy Carlson (Rae Dawn Chong), her connections could mean big breaks for Kenny and Lee.  A clean white subway car could be what Ramon needs to be noticed, but a tagger named Spit could crush Ramon’s dreams.

Directed by Stan Lathan, Beat Street is a musical drama.  The movie took some of its story from the 1983 documentary Style Wars which focused primarily on graffiti.  The movie was relatively well received and helped popularize hip-hop, breakdancing, and rap.

I distinctly remember listening to part of the Beat Street soundtrack on the bus because I remember “Santa’s Rap” which referenced G.I. Joe (it is also ironic that we were a bunch of country kids).  Beat Street is kind of like the opposite of Breakin’ which is shiny and happy…Beat Street feels a bit more real (just a bit).

beat street santas rap treacherous three kool moe dee doug e fresh

Love the Santa’s Rap!

Beat Street tries to get gritty, but it doesn’t go “full gritty”.  I like that there is actual conflict in the story and loss.  While it would be great to believe that the talent of these kids could get them out of their situation, it isn’t necessarily realistic…talent and ability can often only take you so far.  Ramon’s storyline demonstrates that at least but having all the characters fail would be too much of a downer.

The movie’s acting is so-so.  Guy Davis and Robert Taylor are both talented performers, but it is better when they are performing instead of harder scenes.  Rae Dawn Chong was pretty prolific around this time as an actress (but she’s probably worse than the two leads).  Jon Chardiet suffers from Beat Street’s problem in that there are a lot of characters that feel underdeveloped due to all the musical and dancing breaks…I wish Ramo had gotten more screen time.

beat street subway third rail electrocution death ramon

Watch that third rail…

The movie is known for featuring a lot up-and-coming performers.  The movie’s performances are fresh and fun and have appearances by the Treacherous Three (including Kool Moe Dee) and Doug E. Fresh, Melle Mel & the Furious Five, and Afrika Bambaataa  & Soulsonic Force.  It also considered the first movie (American) to have more than one soundtrack album (records back then…the world works in circles).

Beat Street is very ’80s, but it feels like it ages better than Breakin’ which seems to be seen more because of the cheese factor.  Beat Street is actually watchable in a non-ironic sort of way and the dance performances as a whole seem better (Ozone and Turbo still rule though).  If you never saw Beat Street, check it out.  It is a fun flashback that actually kind of holds up.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

One Comment on "Beat Street (1984)"

  1. Carmila Mendoza November 16, 2019 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    Beat street is the best. Rest in peace Ramo. What ever happened to Henry the drummer. Where is Luis. They had a lot of great actors. I often wonder where are they all at now and what are they all doing. I so wish they would all do a where are they at now on Beat Street.

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